I finally got around to trying a somewhat new restaurant in Palo Alto, Sam’s Chowder House. I tried it because Oren’s Hummus restaurant had at least an hour wait. That place is good, but it is way to crowded and busy.
I am from New England, and my uncle (retired police detective) had a lobster boat for a while, and even now at 75 years old has a commercial clam digging license in Maine, so I grew up on this style of seafood, and I am probably very picky. However, I was really pleasantly surprised by this place.
Starting with their clam chowder, since something like chowder is very subjective, I will base my comparison with the chowder from Legal Seafood, which is fairly representative of a standard, decent quality New England style chowder. Other NE style chowder that I have gotten around here in Northern California has been similar, often a little bit more gelatinous, presumably with thickeners such as corn starch or carrageenan or something. Anyway, the soup at Sam’s was quite different. In some ways it was a lot thinner, so less creamy and thick, but I actually found it very pleasant. It had a lot of herbs and celery in it, which gave it a nice, refreshing flavor. It has a nice subtle smoky richness, presumably from the bacon which is on the ingredient list. There were nice big chunks of clam, with had a fresh taste to them, and some small chunks of potato. So compared to Legal Seafood, it was much less hearty, but I think more flavorful and delicious. If you are expecting the really thick and hearty style, you might be disappointed that it doesn’t meet expectations, but I thought it was good and would very much recommend it.
The lobster roll was really outstanding. It was full of large chunks of lobster, maybe meat from 6 claws on top, with more meat under the claws. There wasn’t any mayo that I could detect, which for me was a huge positive, as I don’t like it, especially places which fill it with mayo back in NE. There were just some little celery nuggets and lots of butter. The perfectly toasted roll was quite butter and delicious. The lack of mayo was definitely made up for in butter.
Overall, I think this place is great. It wasn’t cheap, but if you’re looking for cheap, University Ave in Palo Alto is probably not the place to go looking. The service was good, it had a nice atmosphere, with friendly people. Overall, it’s a definite recommend.